This time last year, if someone told me I would be the director of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) for Temple University’s Chapter of PRSSA, I would’ve thought they were crazy.
Our mentorship program put me in the pathway of Cindy Chen, who was the Chapter’s treasurer at the time. Even though I had little to no PR experience, since I recently changed my major, she convinced me to go to the PRSSA Mid-Atlantic District Conference that was supposed to be held in March 2020. Unfortunately, this event was cancelled due to COVID-19, but Cindy continued to push my limits by convincing me to apply for the 2020–2021 executive board.
At first, I was very hesitant to accept the position of director of D&I. The most incessant thought I had was about being in this position as a white woman. I didn’t think I was qualified enough, didn’t think I knew enough about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), and didn’t think the color of my skin allowed me to be on such a platform.
Then, I figured there are many others like me who want to make a difference for people who feel silenced in our society but feel like they will be judged for being white in doing so. I wanted to be a leader and show even though I don’t understand what being a minority is like, that I am an ally. Additionally, I wanted to show that educating yourself on DE&I topics and making others aware of those topics is important, regardless of your skin color.
With the guidance of Haniya Shariff, the previous director of D&I and current vice president of D&I for PRSSA National, I have done many things to make members feel included, represented, and heard.
One of the first things I wanted to do was make D&I a habit rather than a box to check off. In any organization, it all starts with the executive board, so I proposed that we moved the D&I section towards the beginning of our executive board’s weekly agenda instead of it being discussed second to last. This way, D&I could get the attention and recognition it deserves, and people could give their ideas and opinions while they are still focused and present.
Since then, I have hosted two open conversations giving members the opportunity to share their experiences regarding PRSSA and have created graphics to post on our Instagram regarding various month-long observances (i.e. Hispanic Heritage Month).
Another event I am proud of planning was a workshop for students to find their place in the industry and give resources in advocating for themselves and others in the workplace. Most recently, I hosted a Zoom call where members took a test to learn their unconscious biases and learned ways to combat them.
As the semester comes to a close, I feel proud of the work I have accomplished at Temple PRSSA. For January 2021, I plan to gather data from the D&I survey we send our members to create a strategic plan for the coming years and host more open conversations so our members can be heard.
Lastly, I am planning to create a D&I committee who will help me brainstorm events and ways to cultivate diversity and inclusion, write blogs, and give members a safe space to express their ideas and opinions. I am excited to learn and grow even more than I already have in this position and make a real difference within my community.
Olivia Mianulli is a junior public relations major at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is currently the director of Diversity and Inclusion for Temple’s Chapter of PRSSA and works as a building manager at the Howard Gittis Student Center on campus.